Tuesday 16th April 2013
Another season, another relegation fight for Wigan Athletic. In stature, they shouldn’t be in the Premiership, but will they defy the odds again? There’s no doubting that they can (when they are at their best on the pitch they should be in the top division and probably higher than they are now), but will they survive another campaign in the top-flight?
Clubs can fight relegation then compete for Europe the next season, and the title on occasions although that rarely happens in English football, but teams that go through the mill year in year out at the bottom can eventually run out of steam.
We’ve seen it in the past with Coventry City and Southampton who, despite having the occasional ‘OK’ season in the Premiership in between their regular relegation dog-fights, could not sustain the energy it took to win yet another battle against the drop. Experience in these situations is generally a good thing.
Some of the faces change over the years, but like Wigan have now, there were some in the doomed Coventry side of 2001 who bared many scars from previous relegation scraps. Like someone who commits suicide after relentless bullying maybe they didn’t have the stomach for another onslaught. Could the same be said for the Latics?
When they are at their best they are arguably the supreme team out of the ones around them at the bottom of the table with the tika-taka football that Roberto Martinez has installed at the club and Swansea City before them – a brand that the Swans are still feeling the effects of today.
But the league table doesn’t lie and they are once again in the thick of it. They could also fall victim to doing-well-in-a-cup syndrome whereby a team has a good run in the League and/or FA Cup and gets distracted somewhat, which hinders their league form and results in them going down. We saw it with the star-studded Middlesborough side of 1996-97 who lost in both domestic finals of that campaign, and we saw it with Birmingham City a few months after they won the League Cup in 2011.
Now we have seen Wigan reach their first FA Cup final one does wonder whether this will distract them. It is an extremely historic occasion for the club as a whole, so one suspects that it will not just be brushed under the carpet until the week leading up to it especially as the media and their supporters will be reminding them of the prestige from herein.
Martinez may have a very hard and cold approach to the final whereby the fixture will be completely blocked out, but it will surely be on all of his players’ minds for much of the time when they are not busy scrapping for league points on the pitch, which could potentially be dangerous, as their thinking of it off the pitch can affect matters on it in the way that they will prepare for games.
I hope Wigan do stay up because of their football and the dignified way the club conducts themselves (unlike the others around them who reward their respected managers with the sack), but like those aforementioned clubs before them, will this be one scrap too far?
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